Since the early 1960s, Christenberry has found inspiration in the landscape of Hale County, Alabama. Originally from Tuscaloosa, his grandparents were from Greensboro, Alabama which around 1980 was a town with a population of approximately 3,500. Part of the "black belt" region, the term refers to the dark color of the soil in this area crossing central Alabama. It was thought in the Civil War era days that this soil produced the best quality cotton, making it a popular settling place for families and their slaves. The region's wealthy days are long gone.
Like many other artists, for Christenberry photography started out as simply a tool with which to craft a finished piece, be it a painting, drawing or sculpture. As time has proven though, photography has become a key medium in his career. Shaped by Walker Evans' seminal book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, he established a close personal friendship with the artist (see left page) until his death in 1975.
Christenberry has been known to work in typologies, returning to the same subject years later. Usually void of people, he focuses on the land and utilitarian buildings like gas stations, barns, churches, and trains, documenting the history of a region. The intimate scale of his 3 x 5 inch photographs, made with a Kodak Brownie camera, permit the subject matter to be absorbed in a quiet, poignant way, allowing one print to be compared to another with ease. It is not hard to see similarities in the work of fellow Southern photographer and friend, William Eggleston. In 1977, Christenberry bought a Deardorff 8 x 10inch camera to transition to large format. The present lot was probably made with this camera.